Question: I have to be honest that I get a little annoyed sometimes by the rather constant refrain of “The New Evangelization.” What is new about it and why use the word “new” for an ancient faith?
— Name withheld, via email
Answer: Irritation of this sort is perhaps understandable when a phrase gets picked up and used widely in multivariate ways, and thereby comes to be seen more as a slogan than as informative.
That said, the New Evangelization officially is used to mean several rather specific things. First it is new, in the sense that we, as a Church, cannot afford to do business as usual. We must behave in new ways. We can no longer be content to sit within our four walls and talk about the Faith among ourselves; we must go out. We cannot simply think that evangelization is opening the doors and hoping people come.
If there ever was a kind of inertia that brought people to church, that is not so now. It is clear that we must go into the community, into the culture, and re-propose the Gospel. In this sense, “everything old is new again.” For the New Evangelization seeks to go back to Christ’s initial instruction, “Go unto all the nations and make disciples … ” (Mt 28:19).
New Evangelization also appreciates that we cannot simply say what we believe, we must explain why and show its reasonableness. Perhaps in previous times, it was sufficient to argue from authority, but these days, people want to know why, not just what.
Finally, evangelization is “new” in that we must vigorously engage in all the new ways of communicating that have exploded on the scene today. We must creatively engage all these new forms of communication, along with the traditional modes of communication, such as writing, cinema, radio and so forth.
Question: I was told Jesus is without sin. But on Easter, I heard a reading that said, “Jesus died to sin.” Which is true?
— Alan Smith, Jackson, Neb.
Answer: You are quoting Romans 6:10, which says, “As to his death, he died to sin once and for all.” In saying that Christ “died to sin,” St. Paul is not saying he died on account of his own personal sins. The Greek word hamartia (sin) is often used by St. Paul to refer to our own personal sins. But it is also used to refer in a more collective sense to the sin of the world. For this fallen world of ours is immersed in sin, in an attitude of rebellion, pride, greed, lust and so forth. And this climate of sin, is like a force, a mindset, initiated by Satan, and connived in by human beings. It is to this world of sin that Christ died. He broke its back by dying to it and rising victorious over it. And he defeated it in the most paradoxical way: he conquered pride, by humility, disobedience by obedience, and death, by dying and rising.
It is to this regime of sin that Christ died, not his own personal sins of which Scripture is clear he had none (cf 1 Pt 2: 22).
In the same chapter (Rom 6:2,11), we are taught to realize that we too have died to sin, and that this world of sin is to have no more power over us. We must come to experience victory over the influence of this world of sin. We are to lay hold of the life, which Christ offers us wherein this world of sin has no more power over us.